27 March 2006 - Monday

Next round

I'm off to visit Syracuse now. I'll be back in a few days.

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24 March 2006 - Friday

Productivity enhancer

Did you know The New Yorker has a cartoon channel online? The page displays a new cartoon every 30 seconds.

I haven't gotten any work done for 10 minutes now.

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Liberation begins at home

So, what if jihad is democracy?

"According to Islamic law he should be sentenced to death because God has clearly stated that Christianity is forbidden in our land. ... Who is America to tell us what to do? If Karzai listens to them there will be jihad (holy war)."

Western backers of the Afghan government are pressing to create a country that is a moderate and progressive democracy, able to turn its back on its Taleban past.

But analysts say they often forget that Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country rooted in tribal traditions.

"This is a Muslim country. The state is Muslim, people are Muslim 99%," says Judge Ansarullah.

Article by Sanjoy Majumder of the BBC.

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22 March 2006 - Wednesday

What would you do without clean water?

World Water Day March 22, 2006

"The world water crisis is one of the largest public health issues of our time. Nearly 1.1 billion people (roughly 20% of the world's population) lack access to safe drinking water. The lack of clean, safe drinking water is estimated to kill almost 4,500 children per day. In fact, out of the 2.2 million unsafe drinking water deaths in 2004, 90% were children under the age of five. Water is essential to the treatment of diseases, something especially critical for children.

"This problem isn't just confined to a particular region of the planet -- its a world-wide issue. A third of the Earth's population lives in 'water stressed' countries and that number is expected to rise dramatically over the next two decades. The crisis is worst in developing nations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia."

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19 March 2006 - Sunday

Keeping it real

Peter Wood, provost at The King's College, a Christian school in New York City, has closed TKC's school of education.

I wanted my little college to cease feeding the monster. Schools of education mis-prepare would-be teachers in many ways. They deprive those would-be teachers of the opportunity to learn more important, substantive things during their undergraduate years; they require students to take hugely time-consuming courses of dubious intellectual value; and they inculcate would-be teachers in the educrats' pernicious ideology. It's an ideology that insists that virtually all of America's social problems derive from institutionalized prejudices; that most knowledge is "socially constructed;" and that children are best taught by allowing their natural creativity to flourish, rather than by actually trying to teach the habits of self-discipline and mindfulness.
Via University Diaries.

Update: Ralph Luker points to Arthur Levine's recent defense of schools of education.

We blame the institution for all of the problems in its field and deem its inability to change willful.

That is what is happening today when critics hold education schools responsible for many of the problems of underprepared students who fail at the transition between school and college. But the expectations for education schools are misplaced: They are being asked to carry out activities that they were never intended to perform and that they lack the capacity to achieve.

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18 March 2006 - Saturday

Feed reading

I confess myself a great admirer of RSS. To keep up with as many blogs and other news sources as I do, a feed aggregator is a virtual necessity. Gone are the days when I could open up each site in my blogroll to see whether anyone had updated; to do the same thing today would take too long. Instead, I let the updates come to me.

I use a Web-based reader rather than downloaded software. The advantage of keeping it all online is that I can check my feeds from anywhere. I don't have to be at my own computer.

Specifically, I use Google Reader to view my feeds because it displays posts in one continuous queue. I cannot easily skip things; I have to read posts in the order in which they come in. (If Cliopatria has a post at 11:00 a.m. and my friend Wheeler has a post at 10:58, GR displays the one entry right after the other.) Back when I used Bloglines and Thunderbird's built-in reader, by contrast, my feeds were broken up by source, so I could skip reading entire sites if I didn't have much time. That biased my reading habits; I wouldn't look at some blogs for weeks, especially as my list of feeds got longer.

Today, I monitor 194 sites with Google Reader, and I add to that list frequently. Unfortunately, I have almost stopped adding new blogs to this site's sidebar. I just add their RSS feeds to my reader instead. That means that I get swamped with information (a problem I love having) but my visitors don't get to see all of my wonderful finds. I am going to try to fix this problem over the next few weeks.

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The needs of the many

More evidence for the elections-are-no-panacea file: Afghan Man Faces Execution After Converting to Christianity. (Via L&P)

Remember, this is in a "vibrant young democracy."

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17 March 2006 - Friday

Reading list

To celebrate an "opposite day," which involves writing non-parodic defenses of views opposite to one's own, Jason Kuznicki makes a plea for the divine right of kings. He explains himself here.

Meanwhile, in Perspectives, Jerry Z. Muller is exhorting academics to write better.

Phil Renaud, looking closely at his university grades, has turned up some evidence that the fonts he uses have affected his essay scores. I've operated on the same theory for years; it's one of the reasons I tend to use Book Antiqua or another less common serif face rather than pedestrian Times New Roman.

Michael A. G. Haykin has posted a long entry on St. Patrick.

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15 March 2006 - Wednesday

History Carnival XXVII

The twenty-seventh History Carnival has been posted at History : Other. Here are some entries that immediately caught my eye:

Natalie Bennett profiles Ranavalona, the anti-colonial and anti-missionary queen of Madagascar. >>

For her "Sunday protest blogging," Maia describes the 1981 rugby anti-apartheid protests in New Zealand. >>

Is historicism sexy? Scott Eric Kaufman thinks so. >>

Grant Jones is telling the story of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. >>

Other recent carnivals of note: Carnivalesque XIII and the Carnival of Bad History V.

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12 March 2006 - Sunday

Undergraduate bloggers

One thing that bothers me about the blogosphere-as-academic-tool concept is the apparent absence of undergraduates from the scene. I can name plenty of teachers, grad students, and interested laypeople who spend a significant amount of time blogging in academic ways (I can't think of a better catchall description), but most undergraduate bloggers don't seem to participate in the same conversations, even when they have related interests. To me, this seems like a wasted opportunity.

If I am right about this problem, I can think of lots of reasons for it. We undergrads are quite a bit less knowledgeable about ... well, everything, really, so it makes sense that we would find it difficult to follow the shoptalk of our elders. We don't really have our own research to contribute; our school work isn't generally the sort of thing that leads to interesting, original writing. Also, undergraduates are more or less obligated to maintain social lives that have nothing to do with our studies, so perhaps undergraduate blogging doesn't meet the same cultural/social needs that it does for graduate students. Undergrad blogs, in my experience, usually look a lot like high school blogs; they reflect our being in school but demonstrate clearly that we do not have our own academic identities yet. It's not just that the level of the writing is lower.

Apathy is always possible, of course, but I don't think apathy by itself explains the problem. Quite a few graduate students blog; where are the blogs of the people who plan to become grad students? Or rather, why do so few of those blogs have an academic focus? Undergraduates are probably more likely than anybody else to blog, but I don't see many of them talking about their academic interests much.

Here's my theory. Blogging generally requires a writer to do much more than hold up one end of a conversation; the academic blogger must be knowledgeable enough (and have enough free time) to present self-contained discourses, whether or not readers provide any feedback. Furthermore, specialized blogging tends to discourage comment from uninitiate readers like undergraduates. So on both ends of the discussion, most undergraduates have no way to get involved in the academic blogosphere, even if they would like to.

I wonder whether an old-fashioned Web forum approach could help. Bulletin boards might be able to nurture an academically-oriented community among undergrads without requiring the same kind of specialized knowledge from them. Such bulletin boards, though, ought to be publicly viewable and integrated as much as possible with the resources available at the academic blogs; they should involve input from professors and grad students.

The trick would be getting undergrads involved in these online communities -- which, I admit with some chagrin, takes me almost back to where I started. How can we coax undergraduates into discussing their academic interests in public?

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10 March 2006 - Friday

Of Love and Marriage

by David Hume (1741; some paragraph breaks added)

I know not whence it proceeds, that women are so apt to take amiss every thing which is said in disparagement of the married state; and always consider a satyr upon matrimony as a satyr upon themselves. Do they mean, that they are the parties principally concerned, and that if a backwardness to enter into that state should prevail in the world, they would be the greatest sufferers? Or, are they sensible, that the misfortunes and miscarriages of the married state are owing more to their sex than to ours? I hope they do not intend to confess either of these two particulars, or to give such an advantage to their adversaries, the men, as even to allow them to suspect it.

I have often had thoughts of complying with this humour of the fair sex, and of writing a panegyric upon marriage: But, in looking around for materials, they seemed to be of so mixed a nature, that at the conclusion of my reflections, I found that I was as much disposed to write a satyr, which might be placed on the opposite pages of the panegyric: And I am afraid, that as satyr is, on most occasions, thought to contain more truth than panegyric, I should have done their cause more harm than good by this expedient. To misrepresent facts is what, I know, they will not require of me. I must be more a friend to truth, than even to them, where their interests are opposite.

Continue reading "Of Love and Marriage" below the fold . . .

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6 March 2006 - Monday

The Index

Just for fun, I decided to ILL a copy of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1930 edition). It arrived here while I was in Chicago.

Plenty of philosophers and Protestants made the list, of course. But here are some of the more intriguing entries I've found:

Chais, Charles. Bible (La sainte), ou le vieux et le nouveau testament avec un commentaire littéral composé de notes choisies et tirées de divers auteurs angloises. [As the introductory material in the Index insists, such Bibles were proscribed not because the Church hated vernacular translations but because they were exploited by Protestants; commentary from "various English authors" probably didn't help this one]

[Several other New Testament translations, including French, Dutch, Italian, and Piedmontese -- none, that I saw, in English]

Gerberon, Gabriel. Défense de l'église romaine contre les colomnies des protestans. [Gerberon may have defended the Church against Protestant calumnies, but he was also a Jansenist]

Hugo, Victor. Notre-Dame de Paris.

Algarotti, Francesco. Newtonisme (Le) pour les dames. [A book on optics, I am told]

Le Maistre de Sacy, Louis-Isaac. Office (L') de l'Église et de la Vierge en latin et en françois, avec les hymnes traduites en vers. [Sacy was another Jansenist, I believe]

Richardson, Samuel. Pamela, or virtue rewarded; in a series of familiar letters from a beautiful damsel to her parents. [A moralistic novel with some racy bits]

Relation of the proceedings against Henry Garnet, a jesuite, and his confederates, the traitors in the gunpowder plot.

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4 March 2006 - Saturday

He returns

I'm back! And now I must try to catch up on many different things around the apartment. The trip to Chicago was useful but very tiring. I got off the train just a couple of hours ago, so the world is still rocking back and forth; I shouldn't stay at the computer long.

If you've had any difficulty commenting here, I apologize. The blog technicians have been busy dealing with our spam problem. Things should be working properly now. You'll notice a slight difference in the commenting procedure, but I think it should be easy to figure out.

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